Jobs Parents Had in High School

The pandemic has thrown families everywhere a real curveball to say the least. But social distancing is presenting more than just challenges; it is also giving families with older kids a real opportunity to well…just talk more. From our vantage point, some of those opportunities should absolutely be used to discuss money. As few as four conversations with teens can allow your family to exit the pandemic with money-smarter kids. You don’t need to be an expert or download an App. You only have to take some of the time you are already spending together and speak honestly about your experiences earning and spending. Tonight at dinner, consider describing the jobs you had in High School.

We know it’s not always easy to talk to teens – particularly when it comes to things like jobs and money. But mercifully, the pandemic allows a conversation about part-time jobs to take place without expectations – because the reality is, summer and part-time jobs are just going to be really hard, if not impossible to get this year. Begin the conversation with that fact, and you can possibly avoid a defensive response from your teen – who desperately wants some financial independence – but just may not be able to achieve it, not right now.

What was minimum wage in 1982? How about 1992? How many hours at a minimum wage job did it take back then to be able to buy basketball shoes or a bicycle? How many hours would it take today? Discuss that difference and what it means to your family.

There might be ophthalmic calisthenics (serious eye-rolling) in response to your description of how you had to sweep the floor and stack 12 cases of pop bottles every night before you left your high school part-time job, but try to ignore them. See if you and your spouse can generate a Monty Python like contest as to “who had it worse?” Kids love this sort of thing.

Because parents universally experience kids being much more careful with money they earn, than with money they are given, figuring out even smaller in-house ways the teens in your life can earn some money this summer, is probably a meaningful exercise. If a child is old enough to want something that costs hundreds of dollars, which many teens do, they are old enough to help figure out how to pay for it.

Working during the school year was a much more common occurrence in prior generations. And summer jobs used to be able to pay for a much more significant portion of the cost of a post-secondary education. As selecting and applying to post-secondary programs grew into a job in and of itself, students arguably had less time to scoop ice-cream, sweep floors, or lifeguard. And it has to be said that opportunities to do that sort of work are not as prevalent as they once were. But the impact of never really earning even your own spending money before leaving high school can be seen in the unprecedented levels of student debt that now plague young adults. Some student debt is absolutely attributable to lifestyle choices – that may never have been made if kids had been denominating the cost of an item in terms of the hours they worked to be able to pay for it.

So when you and your now captive teen audience are trying to figure out how everyone is going to get through a summer without the prospect of a job, or crowded beaches, or even summer school, how about figuring out what sort of in-house minimum wage might be appropriate for them to earn… if they paint the bathroom, look after dinner Monday to Thursday, look after lunch for younger siblings, or some yard work, or laundry…Just imagine the stories they will have to tell their kids in the spring of 2050.

Hang onto hope everyone. Lets get through this thing, if nothing else, with money-smarter kids.

If you are interested in how children research the full value of a request or purchase (before they make it) at one of our in-classroom workshops, please click on the Green or Pink Buttons below. Of course, they can also do this at home!


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